Golden years: metal coating techniques used 2,000 years ago outshine modern methods

By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times
October 12, 2017 7:41 pm Last Updated: October 12, 2017 7:41 pm

Ancient technology used by craftsmen 2,000 years ago to apply thin films of metal onto their statues surpassed modern standards for producing DVDs, solar cells, and electronic devices. It makes you wonder, how did they do it?

A report on the discovery in the July 2013 issue of Accounts of Chemical Research affirmed: “[…] the high level of competence reached by the artists and craftsmen of these ancient periods who produced objects of an artistic quality that could not be bettered in ancient times and has not yet been reached in modern ones.”

Traditional techniques of fire gilding and silvering are mercury-based processes that have been used to coat the surface of objects such as jewelry, statues, and amulets with thin layers of silver or gold. Often used for decorative purposes, it has also been used to fool purchasers into believing a less precious metal was composed of gold or silver.

2,000 years ago, ancient gilders made metal coatings that were especially thin, adherent, and uniform – increasing durability and saving on more expensive materials.

This level of quality has yet to be reached in the modern world.

Gilded objects from the 11 century A.D. (Suraj Belbase/CC BY-SA)
Gilded objects from the 11 century A.D. (Suraj Belbase/CC BY-SA)
A gilded plate at the Azerbaijan Museum in Iran. (Adam Jones/CC BY-SA)
A gilded plate at the Azerbaijan Museum in Iran. (Adam Jones/CC BY-SA)

Despite their apparent lack of knowledge of chemical-physical processes, ancient artisans could create amazing results while manipulating metal. One technique they put into practice was to use mercury like a glue and then apply thin films of precious metals to their desired objects.

The results of the study may aid in the preservation of past treasures, but they also demonstrate how ancient people likely had much more advanced knowledge and skills than many people give them credit for.

Other examples of advanced technology in ancient times have bewildered.

Another example of ancient advanced knowledge is the 2,000-year-old Antikythera mechanism, a metallic device with a complex combination of gears which apparently worked to calculate solar and lunar eclipses as well as the positions of celestial bodies.

The Baghdad Battery also usually falls into the category of ancient advanced knowledge. This is a clay pot that holds a copper cylinder with an iron rod at the center – it may be the earliest form of an electric battery.

Although the level of sophistication 2,000 or more years ago may be bewildering for some people today, that doesn’t mean such significant accomplishments should be ignored. Instead, our history books should applaud the ancients’ accomplishments and promote curiosity about how and where the ancient advanced knowledge came from.

Republished with permission, read the original at Ancient-Origins.net.

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